Let Projects Pay for Themselves

The big Dubya was on TV the other night talking about how Social Security needed shoring up before it goes bankrupt. I listened for about five minutes. The problem is that it’s not going to be fixed. It will be debated. It will be sound-bited to death. But it won’t be fixed. Our country doesn’t have the cojones to fix it.

Look at the Schwarzenegger administration. Ah-nold made all sorts of promises on his way into the California’s governor’s mansion. He hasn’t done a good job of keeping them. To be fair, this isn’t entirely his fault. The problem is that our government doesn’t want fixing – they want more meddling.

Think about it. If they wanted to fix things, don’t you think it could have happened in the last 200-odd years of lawmaking? Instead, our government has become one of full-time time wasting. Used to be that people worked part time in the government (not everyone, perhaps, but many of them). Now it’s a career path, and not just for the low-level lackeys who do the work.

So here is my proposal. It’s fairly universal.

Rather than continuing to fund projects that don’t pay for themselves, how about letting the projects pay for themselves? The White House has decided that they don’t disagree with tolls after all. Mecklenburg County has explored handing over the operation of pools to someone else because they can’t do it profitably. Chicago sold a road for nearly $2 billion. Somewhere, people realize that projects can be driven by the costs that they can recoup.

But not in Charlotte.

The city contributed to the building of the Westin hotel (with ballroom), across the street from the convention center – and wonders why the current convention center suffers from lack of interest. They have added a tunnel for light rail through the convention center, but it’s already been mentioned that the distraction and noise of a train traveling through the tunnel will disrupt conventions taking place.

Heywood Sanders, the author of a recent study on convention centers: “The city has now invested in a Convention Center, a hotel, a stop on the light-rail line and the light-rail itself and now this, and every one of them is supposed to work, and not a one of them has to date, which would lead a normal, thoughtful person to begin to ask: Is there not a larger problem here?” Hmm.

Speaking of which, just a few months ago, the transit plan was running at a total cost of $3 billion – after it started at just about $1 billion in 1998. Will it help our city? Sure. But with such soaring price tags, you have to wonder: Why not just look at the number of people getting on buses because gas prices went up?

Or how about simply working on the bus system? $1 billion, or $3 billion, or even $6 billion (the level of some recent estimates) could do a whole lot with the road and bus system that we already have, instead of building a light rail system that probably won’t work to alleviate congestion.

“Only in the New York metropolitan area is market share higher than five percent. In most metropolitan areas, transit carries less than 1.0 percent of travel. With such a small market share, even a doubling of transit ridership would have virtually no impact on traffic congestion.” Source.